Ac­tive po­lice of­fi­cer, scav­enger among the vic­tims; cop’s fam­ily in­sists he was a vic­tim of mis­taken iden­tity

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Re­porter Nes­tle L. Semilla and Cor­re­spon­dent Ben­jie B. Tal­isic

PO3 Mic­a­hel Santino Cortes and his two com­pan­ions were en­joy­ing their lunch at a roadside caren­de­ria on Fri­day noon when a van parked nearby and pep­pered them with bul­lets.

The three were able to board their sport util­ity ve­hi­cle to es­cape. But they were chased by the van and a mo­tor­cy­cle boarded by two men.

The sus­pects did not stop rain­ing bul­lets on their Kia Sorento ve­hi­cle un­til it fi­nally came to a halt some 120 me­ters from the eatery.

Cortes and his two com­pan­ions died in­stantly from the hail of bul­lets.

A fe­male scav­enger who just hap­pened to pass by was also killed by stray bul­lets, ly­ing on the pave-

ment with the sack­ful of scraps she in­tended to sell to help aug­ment the fam­ily’s mea­ger in­come.

It was an­other bloody day in Cebu on Fri­day as four more lives were added to the ever grow­ing list of mur­der vic­tims fol­low­ing an am­bush in Si­tio Ranger, Barangay Pooc, Tal­isay City at past 12 noon yes­ter­day.

Ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses’ accounts, Cortes, 45, Den­nis Patiluna, 43 and Jose Soroño, 45, were eat­ing when a white van parked nearby.

The next thing they heard were bursts of gun­fire which they said lasted for nearly two min­utes.

The wit­nesses who re­quested not to be iden­ti­fied, said they failed to see how many men dis­em­barked from the van and the kind of firearms be­ing used in the at­tack as they were al­ready scam­per­ing for safety.

They claimed that the three vic­tims were able to board their ve­hi­cle and speed off but were chased by the white van and a mo­tor­cy­cle boarded by two men.

Patiluna was said to be the driver of the Kia Sorento with Cortes on the pas­sen­ger seat. Soroño was at the back­seat.

The fourth fa­tal­ity was iden­ti­fied as Cres­en­ciana Ranghus, 50, a scav­enger.

About 120 me­ters from the eatery, the life­less bodies of Cortes and Soroño where found in­side the ve­hi­cle while the body of Patiluna was found sprawled on the sim­mer­ing pave­ment.

Supt. Marlu Conag, Tal­isay City Po­lice chief, said that it ap­peared that the vic­tims were able to fire back at their at­tack­ers.

“Makikita sa tra­jec­tory ng sasakyan na naka fire back sila sa mga sus­pects,” said Conag.

He added that they have not yet re­ceived the of­fi­cial re­port from the Scene of the Crime Op­er­a­tives (Soco), but he said that the slugs seen at the two crime scenes were pos­si­bly from high pow­ered firearms.

Conag said that they are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing if Cortes and a cer­tain PO2 Michael Cortez named by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte as one of the narco cops are one and the same.

“Hindi pa po natin yan masasabi, Iche- check pa po natin,” said Conag.

Cortes’ rel­a­tives con­firmed to the me­dia that the vic­tim was an ac­tive po­lice of­fi­cer with a rank of po­lice of­fi­cer three.

Mis­taken iden­tity

They be­lieved the po­lice­man was a vic­tim of mis­taken iden­tity.

“Kahibaw naka Digong. Aw, sa kadaghang tawng nahitaboan, hi­naot unta, hi­naot lang nga kin­ing mga gi­pang suf­fer sa mga tag­tun­god karun kay dili mahitabo nimo,” cried the younger sis­ter of Cortes who re­fused to be named.

(You know Digong [Pres­i­dent Duterte]. This has hap­pened to a lot of in­no­cent vic­tims. We just hope that what hap­pened to us won’t hap­pen to you)

The sis­ter claimed that her brother is not the PO2 Michael Cortez whose name ap­peared on the narco list which Pres­i­dent Duterte re­leased in Au­gust 2016.

“Dili na siya mao! Mic­a­hel Santino na siya! Di na mao naa sa lista ni Digong. Pataka lang mo,’ said the younger sis­ter.

(That is not him. My brother is Mic­a­hel Santino Cortes while the one in Duterte’s narco list was Michael Cortez. You are wrong!)

From a hear­ing

Leda Cortes, the wife of PO3 Cortes, said her hus­band just came from Bar­ili town to at­tend a hear­ing for an anti-drug case.

“Nanghid siya nga moadto og Bar­ili kay mo at­tend og hear­ing,” said Leda.

Leda said that her hus­band al­ready cleared his name with Camp Crame where he un­der­took a lie de­tec­tor test.

“Naka­sulti na siya nga naay laing PO2 Michael Cortez nga na as­sign sab sa Cen­tral Visayas,” said Leda.

(He told me that there is some­body named PO2 Michael Cortez who was also as­signed in Cen­tral Visayas)

Delia Comedero, an­other sis­ter of Cortes, said her younger brother was never in­volved in il­le­gal drugs.

She said that her brother was even well-loved in Tal­isay City.

“Ngano gud tawn malam­bigit siya sa dru­gas nga hate man kaayo na niya. Dili siya gana­han anang mga kawatan il­abi na kanang dru­gas, ” said Comedero.

(How can he be in­volved in il­le­gal drugs when he hated that thing. He hated crim­i­nals es­pe­cially those in­volved in il­le­gal drugs)

Comedero said that they have lost trust in the po­lice. “Og mga pulis wala nakoy pagsalig mai­hap ra. Moderetso kog duol sa Pres­i­dente. Wala ta kahibaw kinsa atong kon­tra gud. Wala ta kahibaw kan­ing pulis nabikil niya. Dili nalang ko mos­alig bisan kinsa,” said Comedero.

Comedero is hop­ing that Duterte will do some­thing to give jus­tice to his brother who she said is a good po­lice of­fi­cer.

Wrong place and time

De­spite yes­ter­day’s sear­ing mid­day heat, Ranghus still set out on her daily rou­tine to get scraps to sell.

The hus­band of the 50-year-old scav­enger, said that Ranghus roams around the city scav­eng­ing for scraps.

“Mang-is­crap man gud na siya. Kung min­gaw mao na siya mag suroy (She do scav­eng­ing. She roams around Tal­isay City to get scraps to sell),” said Felix.

“Yawa ang gabuhat ani. Lami put­lan og ulo,” (This is the hand­i­work of de­vi­ous in­di­vid­u­als whose heads should be cut off), Felix cried.


Delia Comedero grieves when she learned that her younger brother, PO3 Mic­a­hel Santino Cortes, was among those killed in an am­bush on Fri­day in Si­tio Ranger, Barangay Pooc in Tal­isay City.

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